|Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness|
And I'm good with it. The originality of Abrams' first Star Trek movie was epic because it literally went where no one had ever gone before. The fans were given a story that hadn't been rehashed, sprinkled throughout with the characters that most Trekkies have loved far longer than I have been alive. Which is why I had such high hopes for Star Trek Into Darkness. You're sensing a "but" following that statement, and there is one, although not quite as serious of a "but" as you're picturing.
So, if you want to read about that "but," and don't mind spoilers if you haven't seen the movie, then continue reading.
Now for that "but."
But, what I hadn't expected was Abrams to use elements of previous Star Trek films.
I've already comes to terms with the elements that differ from Roddenberry's universe, like the whole Spock/Uhura romance that I'm not keen on, and this new, rather violent, James T. Kirk who makes rash decisions that his predecessor would never dream of making. Beating people black and blue is unlike my Kirk too, but I've accepted that change, even if I don't like it.
But I just thought that Abrams was smart enough to write his own story. Yes, spoilers here, so stop reading now if you don't want to know.
I'm great with Benedict Cumberbatch's character actually being Khan. You have no idea how brilliant that decision was, anything to get Ricardo Montalban's naked chest out of my mind's eye! So that was fine, epic, and absolutely perfect. One of my buddy's hates the changes made to Khan, and I think he's nuts.
So, that's fine.
What's not fine is Abrams utilizing certain other elements from The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock. Those movies have been done before, they've been filmed before, obviously, or I wouldn't be mentioning them. The fans do not need to see a rehash. In fact, my emotional response to the ending of the film was greatly diminished because of the whole Kirk in the warp reactor core and Spock on the outside flip-flop they did from The Wrath of Khan. It was disappointing that Abrams couldn't come up with his own climax so he felt inclined to steal it from another movie. Not cool. Seriously, not cool.
Everything else was epic. But as soon as the movie started turning that way, with Kirk taking on Spock's role in tWoK and dying (yes, he dies, but doesn't stay dead), my emotions froze and I started tapping my foot in impatience for us to move on to something else. Because I've seen that before and no one, certainly not Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, can do that emotional scene like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Watching Spock die and not knowing if he was going to survive is epic, it's traumatic, and it's brilliant. Anyone watching Star Trek Into Darkness who is at all familiar with Trek lore realizes that this is merely a retelling of a story that turned out all right in the end.
A fact that makes this part of the story pointless.
Okay, so maybe I'm being a little hard on Abrams. Perhaps. But I think him highly capable of developing his own story. Use Khan, by all means, but don't use a sequence from the original Roddenberry magic in a flip-flop fashion.
Except that it's too late now. The film has been made, and I really, really like it, except for that one story arc. So I can live with what I consider to be laziness on Abrams' part. He might have intended it as an homage, but that's not how it felt to me so that makes it a failed homage. Oh well, we march on.
What Abrams did RIGHT was casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan! And giving Scotty and Bones more lines and more to do! Because out of the entire cast playing original characters, Karl Urban and Simon Pegg are the closest to their counterparts which makes them brilliant! But really, Ben is an incredible Khan. He's ruthless, and heartless, and totally devoted to the members of his crew above anything else. He's Kirk in an invincible body and with superior intellect.
If I were to ever deliberately turn evil it would be for a man like Khan the way Benedict Cumberbatch portrays him. Because there would be enough of a ruthless logic in his methods to convince me that he was right. Fortunately, there are no real men like him in this world and I happen to be saved by grace. Yes, I am a Ben fangirl, a devoted one, but I also feel like Abrams breathed life into a villain that never quite reached his full potential because of that stupid chest-baring outfit and that absurd eighties hair. Ben took Khan to a whole new level and I hope, hope, hope that he'll be back again!
So there you have it. A mostly brilliant film by mostly brilliant director J. J. Abrams.